“Murderous cattle are an understudied phenomenon, say veterinarian Angharad Fraser-Williams and other researchers at the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom.”
You bet they’re understudied. When’s the last time you cracked open Nature or Science and a read paper like “The stampede-growth hormone nexus”, “Delinquent behavior, violence, and cud chewing down on the farm”, “Grass diet and bovine psychopathology” and so on? I’ll you when: never: that’s when.
It’s no laughing matter. According to the article “How Not to Get Killed by a Cow“, spotted by the ever vigilant Ken Steele, comes this warning: “Between 1993 and 2015, cattle killed 13 people who were out for walks in the United Kingdom.” That’s over 0.5 killings per year!
What is driving these murderous cows mad? Disease?
Turns out Fraser-Williams and fellow researchers “scoured news articles and scientific literature to learn about cattle attacks over two decades.”
In the United Kingdom, the authors explain, public paths in the countryside often cross through farmland. This means people out for a stroll may find themselves face-to-face with herds of grazing cattle. To find out how often these encounters turned ugly, the researchers hunted through scientific literature for papers including the terms “cow” or “bovine” plus “attack” or “injury.”…
They also searched the Internet for British webpages about “best practice for walking among cattle.”
The article doesn’t say, but I’m betting it’s a bad idea walking up to a truculent cow and boasting how many quarter-pounders you’ve eaten in a lifetime. Getting too near a bull for a selfie must also rank high in the list.
Anyway, “Much more dangerous than simply hiking through the countryside”—and nobody but nobody saw this coming—“is working with cattle directly.” Now that’s the kind of finding that research is all about! You take an understudied field like cow murders and through sheer effort of will you discover a scientific fact previously unknown to Science.
Of course, pretty much every civilian who’s ever lived knew that trying to castrate a bull with a pair of rusty shears often leads to grief. But civilians aren’t scientists and can’t certify facts in the same way Science can.
Turns out the deadliest “year was 2009, when there were 13 attacks and 4 deaths. Injuries included ‘fractures to arms, ribs, wrist, scapula, clavicle, legs, lacerations, punctured lung, bruising, black eyes, joint dislocation, nerve damage and unconsciousness.'” Ouch.
But the question remains: why 2009?
I checked and 2009 was the hottest year ever—but only in the southern hemisphere. Still, it’s too much of a coincidence for me, so I prefer to believe global warming had something to do with it.
Maybe a better explanation is post-traumatic stress syndrome. Yes, sir. There was a mild earthquake in 2008—a year before the killing spree—in Lincolnshire. Rattled cows! It might not only be elephants which have long memories.
Here’s more science:
The scientific literature revealed some reasons cattle might attack. One is maternal behavior. Mother cows see humans as a threat to their calves, and they may take action to protect a calf if a person gets too close.
They will, too. Mother cows, and all good chefs, know the difference between veal and beef and why the former is preferred.
Since this is Science, we need a conclusion:
More research would help reveal the reasons for fatal attacks, the authors write, as well as their frequency. It would also be helpful to have a centralized database where people could report cattle attacks.
It’s not true Science unless (1) it can be measured and (2) more research is needed.